Maintaining social media accounts for marketing and customer service is a “must-have” for businesses these days. Of course, this best practice—and the value it generates for businesses—extends far beyond English-speaking countries.
Globally speaking, not all social networks are created equal. Facebook generates plenty of buzz in the U.S., but it’s a comparative dud in other countries. If your company aims to grow globally, it must understand its international consumers, and—for lead gen and brand-building—must know their preferred social networks.
Social networks play an especially important role in Japan. The market is on track to have a mobile internet penetration rate of 73.5% by next year. Over 90% of these consumers regularly access some sort of social media on their smartphones.
Social media use is pervasive across most age groups. Here’s a breakdown, by age group, of how many Japanese consumers access social networks:
76% of teenagers use social media
91% of twentysomethings
80% of thirtysomethings
60% of residents in their 40s
But, which social networks are most popular here? It’s not Facebook.
LINE is a free social media platform developed by the Japanese branch of Naver, a South Korean company. Much like Facebook, LINE is used on PCs and smartphones. It’s the largest social network in Japan, with more than 50 million registered Japanese users. Nearly 60% of all Japanese Internet users are on LINE.
LINE users are spread evenly across gender lines and age groups. Most are either full-time workers (38%) or part-time workers or housewives (30%). Another 20% are students. Companies with a presence on LINE can engage a broad range of demographics—especially affluent users.
Like other social networks, LINE has a timeline feature, and permits users to send private messages, share pictures, movies, music and much more. Users can also use the service to make free voice and video calls.
LINE’s “sticker shop” is especially popular. This feature empowers users to download virtual stickers, which they can send to friends. These messages are often accompanied by emojis. (Facebook released a similar feature in 2013.) Here’s something that’ll blow your mind: one billion stickers are sent on LINE every day.
LINE also has many features for brands. The network’s B2C accommodations are very much like “verified” or “brand” accounts on other networks. Companies can easily, and directly, engage LINE users. Sharing news, promos, and sales announcements is common.
If your company is expanding into the Japanese market, there’s no question it should create a marketing presence on LINE.
Twitter, Facebook, and Others
Twitter ranks as Japan’s second most-popular network, used by 36.6% of the country’s social media users. Interestingly, penetration rate has decreased over the past year, down from 41.9%.
Facebook experienced a similar slip. Facebook ranks #3 in Japan, used by less than 35% of social media users. That’s down from 40% in 2014.
What’s causing this drop among Facebook users? We believe it’s mostly driven by Facebook’s policy that requires users to use their real names. Japanese consumers value their privacy, opting to use social media platforms like LINE and Twitter, which allow them to preserve their anonymity.
The biggest user decline, however, hails from the Japan-exclusive network mixi. Last year, nearly 20% of all social network users were loyal to the platform. That rate has plummeted to 10%. Many users are simply opting for more popular networks.
A new contender is Instagram, the popular Western photo-sharing social network. Japan’s longtime love of phone-cameras is apparent with Instagram’s emerging success. It currently has a penetration rate of 10%.
Social media networks are valuable tools to build relationships, and communicate, with your global customer base. Just remember it’s critical to understand the nuances of these international markets—and which social channels they prefer.
That winning strategy will go a long way in generating engagement and revenue among new customers around the world.
Victoria Bloyer is a global online strategist at MotionPoint Corporation